Alberta workplace safety website unveiled: Online records will reveal best and worst companies

EDMONTON - Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk has unveiled a new workplace safety website that allows many Albertans to see basic information about how many injuries and deaths have happened at their workplaces.

The website contains injury and fatality information for 140,000 companies dating back to 2005, and compares each company's performance to industry and provincial averages.

Alberta is the first province to make such extensive workplace safety information searchable online.

"Albertans have the right to know the safety record of each and every employer," Lukaszuk said. "We hope that by shining a light on the injury and fatality records of individual employers, we will improve the safety culture in this province."

The website allows Albertans to see how many company workers have died in each of the past four years.

Under the heading "lost time claims," users can also see how many injuries and diseases forced employees to take time off work. Under the heading "LTC Rate," users can see how likely a worker is to become injured or diseased during one year of work at the company.

That "LTC Rate" is then compared with previous years, other companies in the same industry and with the Alberta average.

Lukaszuk said Thursday he hopes workers and their families will use the search tool to see how safe their workplaces are. He also expects consumers will use it to hire businesses that make safety a priority, which will in turn put competitive pressure on companies to improve their safety practices.

Similarly, he said businesses will for the first time be able to see how they stack up to others in their industry, in terms of safety. He expects safer work sites will draw more qualified, dedicated workers.

Lukaszuk dismissed calls for a Top 50 or Top 100 worst employers list, saying Albertans have different ideas about what constitutes safe and they can decide for themselves with access to the information now available online.

The new government website uses data obtained from the Workers Compensation Board, and so it only contains information for companies that are insured by the WCB. It does not include information for nearly 12,000 businesses for whom insurance is voluntary, such as farms, medical centres, advertising agencies, banks, insurance companies and clubs.

Liberal critic Hugh MacDonald said most of the information was already available online and that the province should make inspection orders public.

"If we want to make a real difference and make our work sites safe and productive in this province, the minister has to release the orders that have been submitted to an employer as a result of occupational health and safety laws," he said.

He said last year there were more than 14,000 inspections at Alberta work sites and 9,000 written orders, and that Albertans have the right to know what inspectors found on their work sites.

Gil McGowan of the Alberta Federation of Labour said the idea of a website is good but the site unveiled Thursday is "deeply disappointing.

"If the goal of this website is to provide Albertans with information that will allow them to see the safety records of individual companies, it simply fails to do the job.

"It only provides a bewildering array of confusing statistics and, frankly, made-up ratios that don't really mean anything to most people," he said. "It buries people under an avalanche of information, most of which is completely useless."

He said the government's decision to use lost time claims information as the basis for the website suggests the government caved into pressure from employers who wanted to keep more damning documents and evidence secret.

Like McDonald, he argues the government should make workplace inspection reports public.

"We have been arguing for years that the government should post a list of repeat violators who have consistently put their workers at risk."

Edmonton Journal, Thurs Sept 30 2010
By Karen Kleiss

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